By L&T Columnist Gary Damron
Since before Easter, it has been a privilege to study more in depth the seven sayings of Jesus as he was crucified. The reference for today’s phrase is John 19:28-29, summed up in the Greek as one word of agony, “Thirsty!”
This past week we experienced winds that took our breath away, with new leaves curling and the smell of dust permeating houses and cars. In my younger days I ran cross country and track, and have hiked in arid places. But those can’t begin to compare to the thirst of a man who’d endured six trials and hung six hours in the sun.
Before his birth in Bethlehem, the One who spoke the word of creation gave away his privilege and prerogative in order to become wholly human (Philippians 2:5-8). He experienced and identified with every craving of our physical lives, including hunger and thirst. As humans we’re made up of sixty percent fluids, and must have water to sustain ourselves. Without water, dehydration, muscle cramps, confusion and death will occur in a short time.
Though our Lord emptied himself, there were still resources available to him as a human: In the temple at age twelve, when he was tempted in the wilderness, when challenged by the Pharisees, and even in Gethsemane, Jesus was so saturated with prayer and scripture that those came spilling out. Now his beloved friend John, standing at the foot of the cross heard the cry which became a theme of his writings.
Since there is no direct cross-reference in the Bible to Jesus’ word, we need to look deeper to learn why John stated this was a fulfillment of Scripture. The Gospel of John talks often of water, from the woman at the well in chapter 4, to the Feast of Tabernacles where Jesus declared, “’If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink’” (John 7:37). Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46 explains how believers honor him when giving a drink to “the least of these”.
Water and the Spirit have symbolic connections, hearkening back to the Old Testament. “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (Isaiah 55:1). Even the hyssop used to lift the drink to Jesus reminded the Jews of its use in the first Passover (Exodus 12:22) and in their ceremonial rituals.
Every one of us has a spiritual hunger that we try to satisfy. Even after leading the woman at the well to the point of asking for living water, Jesus stopped and told her to go call her husband. It wasn’t an irrelevant request; in that instant she realized it was her spiritual hunger which had driven her from lover to lover seeking to fulfill her deepest longings.
The one word spoken, “Thirsty!” is so profound. It demonstrates Jesus’ identification with our needs. The blood and water poured out from the cross symbolize the cleansing and saturation we receive when we partake of his quenching waters.
It’s not bank accounts, leisure time, relationships, but only Christ we need to satisfy our deepest thirst. Those who accept his outpouring will be filled to overflowing, like an Artesian well, and many will be blessed through our lives.